We go through life with a series of titles, which normally point to our relationship to people that we are tethered to in the mind of someone else. So, to you, I may be Phil's friend or George's boss or your former employee. But there are a few titles that I wear as a badge of honor. Over the few weeks to begin November I am writing about some, which are major identifiers to me. Today, I talk about the two people whose very existence led to my very existence—my mother and father.
Trying to recap all the ways your parents impacted your life is a difficult procedure, because they actually began the process, literally, before you can remember. So, in my extreme youth, they began the process of rearing me, which could not have been easy. I never felt like I was a "bad" kid, but I can definitely see how I was challenging. I am not a rule follower by nature and I tend to have my arguments up front. My parents never let me feel that I would fall out of their love if I dropped the ball in some manner. This was a very good thing, because I did many things that I should not have. While I do not care to delineate my sins, I am exceedingly thankful.
While at the time, my mother's chronic questioning about people and events in my life drove me crazy (perhaps the very reason she needed to keep prying), I am so very thankful that she was tenacious. Because if any small thing came up (like doing something that most people would say was fine, while she saw bad motives), she was very diligent to appropriately punish. She was stubborn enough to outlast me in every situation where I needed coaxing to do the right thing. I heard the mother of Jimmy Carter (Lillian Gordy Carter) said she wore out when attempting to rear Billy. That does not describe Ann West in any facet. She is relentless in her quest to find truth and correctness. I needed that, and I'm forever grateful for that!
My mother, however, was not alone in our rearing. Though she was the first line of contact we had, I don't know of any father of my friends who was more involved than my father. I was forever being told by friends how envious they were of my dad's involvement. And this involvement meant that he coached basketball teams, Bible Quiz teams, drove us on field trips, and was a huge cheerleader for everything else I did. I use the term "cheerleader" with such respect, as I don't think anyone who knows Paul West can doubt that he goes through life with boundless enthusiasm. He is the voice I hear in my head, when I think back to any kind of accomplishment in my youth that "deserved" cheer. I find myself trying to emulate that in my own life so much!
I really think the key to good parenting is just being there. I think you can mess up a lot of things if you are just there for your kids. Now, I had the benefit of my parents being there AND rarely messing up! They were sensational in so many respects. They never denied me the opportunity to do things even if they were a burden. They never told me of my own weaknesses except when they needed to, and I believe my confidence today stems from the confidence they instilled in me.
As I have begun the process of rearing my own children, I come to appreciate all the more how big of a positive impact my parents had on me. Over my many years of life, I've heard many people talk about generations of Christian heritage. And while there are certainly advantages to such an upbringing, I submit that having "first generation Christians" as parents is a huge asset (I think we should all strive to be "first generation Christians" in our own right, but that's another blog). While setting a Christian household may have been new for them, they did so with excellence. And there was nothing they did that was mindless tradition. Every step of our rearing was a calculated decision in an attempt to point us to God. This is such a blessing!
Growing up, I remember commonly hearing, "are your Mrs. West's son" or "are you Mr. West's son" with such regularity that I grew frustrated that people didn't really know who I was. As I got older, the Mr. and Mrs. were replaced with Paul and Ann. And while people now "know who I am" a little more, I yearn for the days when I was just Paul and Ann's son. While people who meet me now may often relate me to my children, there is still a large segment of people that see me as my parent's son. And when I bump into these people who want to ask if I am in fact Paul West's son or Ann West's son, I can proudly answer, "I am, in fact, proud to be the son of Paul and Ann West!"